It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

Summary: Early Windows 7 adopters have now had a full year to stress-test Windows 7 and decide whether it's good enough to replace Windows XP. The verdict? Windows 7 has been a quiet success, maybe even a phenomenon. The question now isn't whether it will overtake XP, but when.


Want more charts? See my follow-up post, When will XP finally fade away? And be sure to vote in the poll.

Last year at this time, Microsoft was in the final stages of preparing Windows 7 for its worldwide launch. The new OS was finally available to the public—well, at least that segment of the public with a TechNet or MSDN subscription. Those early adopters had to wait a few weeks after the official release to manufacturing date but still got a head start on the general public.

Those demanding and skeptical Windows users have now had a full year to stress-test Windows 7 and decide whether it's good enough to replace Windows XP.

The verdict? Windows 7 has been a quiet success, maybe even a phenomenon. Last spring, a Microsoft executive told me that the company had sold 100 million Windows 7 licenses. As part of its quarterly earnings call in July, Microsoft announced that that number had risen to 175 million, and the company has projected that a total of 350 million Windows 7 licenses will have been sold by the end of this year. That's a run rate of roughly 30 million copies per month worldwide, and it represents a lot of Windows 7-powered PCs.

Despite the big numbers, Microsoft has been almost eerily silent about its success. I didn't hear a lot of bragging in advance of the Windows 7 launch, nor has there been much chest-thumping since.

The competition has been muted as well. When was the last time you saw one of Apple's infamous "Get a Mac" ads? Hint: the last three ads in Apple's campaign were released on October 23, 2009, the day after Windows 7 was launched to the public. With titles like Broken Promises and PC News, Apple's marketing executives were hoping for a Vista-style wave of complaints, but they were as disappointed as Windows 7 upgraders were relieved. And then John Hodgman and Justin Long went off to spend more time with their families.

Meanwhile, Windows 7 keeps selling and XP usage is dropping. That's certainly true at this site, where Windows 7 visitors now outnumber those using Windows XP and Vista usage has plunged in the past year. Here's a graphic representation of how Windows 7 usage has increased among visitors to this site since its first beta release back in January 2009.

Data source: Google Analytics data for all pages at Ed Bott's Microsoft Report. Samples cover 30-day periods ending in December 2008, August 2009, December 2009, and August 2010. Each sample consists of a minimum of 100,000 unique visitors. I asked ZDNet's editors to check sitewide stats for me. They report similar trends. Windows 7 usage increased from 22.2% in December 2009 (exactly the same as Windows Vista) to 35.6% in August 2010. Over the same period of time, XP usage among ZDNet visitors fell below the 50% mark, dropping 7 points to 46.6%. At that rate, Windows 7 will surpass XP among all ZDNet visitors well before the end of this year.

Vista users were clearly eager to upgrade, judging by these results, even to a beta release of Windows 7. But XP users are also converting at a steady clip, with XP diehards now under the 40% level here. These numbers include only Windows users, but I also found interesting results when I looked at the percentage of visitors using Mac OS X. As of this month, that number has returned to its December 2008 levels (slightly over 5%) after peaking above 8% a year ago this month, just before the launch of Windows 7.

So what's really going on? You can summarize the entire story in one simple sentence: Windows 7 is the anti-Vista. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Every couple of months, some blogger or reporter tries to stir up a Windows 7-related controversy (remember the "Black Screen of Death" scare stories?), but nothing seems to stick. Most of the obvious annoyances of Vista are fixed—especially the misunderstood User Account Control feature—and there hasn't been a scandalous security or privacy issue or a killer bug. Word of mouth has been solid, too.

In fact, it's good enough to finally dislodge XP's stranglehold on corporate computing. Not overnight, but certainly by XP's end-of-life date in April 2014.

That's the conclusion I draw from a review of data covering Windows 7 adoption rates in corporations, which are notoriously conservative when it comes to OS upgrades. Although the rates of adoption are far slower than among consumers, there's evidence to suggest that corporations are migrating to Windows 7 at a much faster pace than they did for either XP in 2002-2003 or Vista in 2007-2008. According to a Forrester Research study, Windows 7 was "already powering approximately 7.4% of corporate PCs" in April 2010, six months after its release. Although that number might sound small, it represents about a 1.25% increase in Windows 7 usage per month—an impressive number considering how slowly most corporations move. It's also more than twice the adoption rate of Windows Vista at the same point in its release cycle (Vista usage in enterprises topped off at 12.6% after three years), and it's 50% greater than Windows XP after a similar period.

As Forrester analyst Benjamin Gray explained:

[M]ost mainstream enterprises typically don’t embrace a new desktop OS until 12 to 18 months after its release […] We likely won’t see mainstream enterprisewide adoption of Windows 7 until the middle of this year as IT managers continue developing their upgrade strategies, testing and remediating their application portfolios, and determining what role, if any, client virtualization will play in their next-generation computing strategies.

Today, roughly 70-75% of corporate desktops are still running Windows XP. If enterprise adoption rates for Windows 7 continue at the seemingly slow pace of 1.5% per month, Windows 7 will probably overtake XP in corporate installations by the end of 2011. If that rate picks up even slightly, as it appears to be doing, then there's a good chance that XP will hold a single-digit share of corporate desktops when it's officially retired in 2014.

Last year around this time, I looked at some bullish projections of Windows 7 adoption rates. One was from IDC analyst Al Gillen, who predicted that Windows 7 would account for 75% of units shipped in 2011 and nearly 90% of all Windows desktops sold in 2012. This week, I asked Gillen whether his outlook for Windows 7 was still optimistic, based on the last year's data. There's "no change" in that level of optimism, he told me. "We are still expecting Windows 7 to be very successful."

You can take that to the bank.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Windows 7 is easily the best desktop OS ever made

    Windows 7 "Just Works".
    • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline


      Finally! Actually, wouldn't it be a hoot if Microsoft hired John Hodgman and Justin Long and reversed their roles?!

      But then, that would have been a stroke of marketing genius. What we received, instead, was a lame comparison between Win 7 and OSX.

      Oh well .. one can always dream of what might have been.
      • The best of both worlds would be okay I guess

        While I suppose it would be good for MS if they had better marketing campaigns, it doesn't really affect me, as a consumer, all that much. I'm not at all upset with the current situation where I get a great OS and the multi-national, multi-billion $$$/year mega-corporation behind the OS is an incompetent marketer. You are obviously very happy with a lousy OS but you seem to believe that the excellent marketing prowess of the multi-national, multi-billion $$$/year mega-corporation behind your OS makes up for it. Each to his own! :)
      • I'm sure Apple had Hodgman and Long

        sign in their contracts that they are [b]not[/b] allowed to do comercials for any Apple competitor for X amount of time afterwards.

        That's actually very typical in the ad industry
        John Zern
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        @kenosha7777 Thanks for sharing. i really <a href="">Degree</a> <a href="">college degree</a> <a href="">post graduate degree</a> appreciate it that you shared with us such a informative post..
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        @kenosha7777 i completely agree with ED report i also suggest a client to download a windows 7..<a href="">Logo Design Contest</a>
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        There are plenty of information about this topic in the net & some are definitely better than others.
        <a href="" rel="follow">mensagens para orkut</a> | <a href="" rel="follow">iPhone jailbreak</a>
    • keep dreaming

      That's as hilarious as Ed's graph above that shows that Win XP surpassed Win 7.
      Windoze is in decline due to Linux and Android, no matter how one fudges the numbers!
      Linux Geek
      • Gee.. Doesn't being in denial suck big wind?

        @Linux Geek
        Recent stats show Linux adoption DROPPING below 1% again from 1.1% of the market to 0.9%...

        Yeah... Linux is quite the juggernaught...


        Great pic for ya LG - having a TROLL for your avatar certainly fits like a glove...
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        @Linux Geek

        Wow you are naive aren't you. Linux does surpass Windoze because Windoze does not exist. Thanks for playing
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        @Linux Geek
        I use Linux. OSX and Win XP.Vista and 7.
        Yes, Linux works great when properly installed. The problem is that it is NOT ready for the masses, despite major inroads from (for example) Ubuntu people.
        I have done a number of major Ubuntu (and RHE) installs in our corporate network, and I can guarantee you that there are still glitches with many machines (usually proprietary driver issues or hardware specific issues such as sound card or graphic card drivers).

        The real issue with Linux is that you have to be a geek to use it and operate it. I am one of them and you are. But most people are not.
        Who do they call if they run into a problem? Of course they can go to one of the myriads of support forum, but that will not do them any good if they cannot connect in the first place.

        This is also why Mac OS X has made inroads. We all know it is using Unix Free BSD underneath and that the OS (taken from NeXT) is only a clever wrapper of sort made proprietary and machine exclusive.
        There are no fundamental differences between a Linux box and a Mac box. Run both of them in terminal mode and you will see very little difference.
        But Mac limits itself to their own machine so that they can make sure the OS works with it.
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        @Linux Geek

        I've used Linux in several flavors and have never liked it. I have played with the mac OS and hate it. Windows 7 demolishes everything else completely. I have been running 7 since it came out, I missed beta, and i haven't had a single crash or problem, the OS is completely stable.

        Windows 7 Mobile from what i have read has been built on the same premise, iOS and Android won't be leading the pack at the end of this year.
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline


        [i]Yes, Linux works great when properly installed. The problem is that it is NOT ready for the masses... [/i]

        The problem isn't the OS, it's the business model. Retailers and manufacturers are in business to make money, and the proprietary model is better at helping them do that.

        If you could walk into a retail store and see shelves of Linux desktops and laptops, Linux would be just as easy to use as Windows or OSX. The hardware/driver issues would have been solved by the OEMs. Linux'd be "properly installed" out of the box.

        Conversely, if we had to download and install Windows or OSX orselves, we'd be saying "they're" the operating systems for geeks.

        Linux never will be ready for the masses until it's mass marketed like proprietary systems. I don't think that will ever happen.

        none none
      • Great post none none

        I agree 100% with everything you wrote.

        I do, however, think that Linux has a better chance on the corporate desktop. Corporations usually use custom images for their OSs anyway regardless of what the hardware provider uses and there is no reason why they couldn't use a Linux image instead of a Windows image.
      • Linux share

        @Linux Geek

        During the four measurement periods at this site, actual Linux usage ranged from 2.4% to 3.0%. There is no obvious trend
        Ed Bott
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        @Linux Geek Dude give me a hit of that loco weed you are smoking! Seriously the ONLY way Linux will ever get above a 2-3% marketshare (and that is being generous) is if both Microsoft and Apple went out of business... which won't be happening anytime soon.
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        @Linux Geek

        Another believer! "If I say it, it MUST be TRUE!"
      • Learn to spell

        @Linux Geek Geez, you think that misspelling Windows somehow gets your point across, or shows us how clever you are for using an expression from the 1990's? You guys have taken over the obnoxious position of the old "get a mac" fools that invaded every forum and lied about how reliable and wonderful their system was, even if the forum had nothing to do with them.<br><br>Obviously you live in a dream world if you think that you accomplish anything by your denial of reality. Linux has a lot going for it, in being open source, a nice idea, and being a working system for those geeky enough to want to deal with it; or for those with enough hate for big corporations that they're willing to sacrifice easy usability to show how much they hate those corporations.<br><br>And you apparently can't even read a simple graph.<br><br>Do you see what's happened to the Mac zealots who did what you're doing, back in past years? Look at any forum here, they're the most disliked and scorned bunch around, partly because people are getting back at them for all their years of being obnoxious annoying lying little snits, and partly because they're so devoted to the Apple religion that many still blindly follow. Look in the mirror and listen to yourself, you're doing the same thing to Linux users.
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        @Linux Geek your a very funny little man. I feel sorry for you knowing how much this really hurts for you to see it climbing, and it's still going. However, just keep telling yourself these thing so it makes you happy. God knows we don't want you on the street...brrrr
      • RE: It's official: Windows 7 is a hit, and XP is finally in decline

        @Linux Geek

        Linux is nice, I can see it gaining a large market share on mobile devices like phones, e-book readers and so forth, but on full computers it will NEVER be mainstream
        Doctor Demento